We woke up in our hostel dorm to find the room was freezing cold. Our single dorm-mate reckoned this was to make sure we got out early, although it didn’t make me any keener to get out of bed! After a shivery breakfast we headed out into the day to find it was raining (obviously) and there was also a heavy mist – you could only see about 20 m.
We set off to find that we were at the top of a 7 km descent at about 7% – great fun usually but not when you have freezing rain battering into you at 50 kph! Halfway down a shadow appeared from the gloom, which resolved itself to be one out our Czech friends from yesterday, carefully negotiating the descent. We whizzed past, managing to muster a cheery “Buenos dias” as we went. He didn’t seem full of joie de vivre but who could blame him!
We were still on the Camino trail for a while so we passed a few pedestrian pilgrims, who still somehow manage a smile and a “Buen Camino” even when they’re soaked through. We dropped several hundred metres in altitude over about half an hour, then had to stop for a restorative apple pastry and re-adjustment of waterproofing. A couple we had passed on the road just before wandered up, announcing they had gone the wrong way. I was more concerned that the guy was wearing shorts and trainers and the lady was wearing open toed sandals and clearly at risk of frostbite, but they seemed happy enough and we chatted away under the bus shelter for a few minutes before they continued on the path of righteousness.
Anna and I headed off too, and soon found ourselves in Samos admiring the Benedictine monastery of San Xulián de Samos while munching salted, deep fried sweetcorn (great calorie to weight ratio!) under a thoughtfully provided shelter by the river. It was still raining.
We pushed on through the morning and arrived in Sarria, the major town in the region in the early afternoon. We decided to treat ourselves to an inside lunch since we were soaked and cold, but we chose poorly. Back on the street after a very disappointing hamburger we were forced to seek out a bakery that provided us with a massive empanada. Aaaah, that’s better! It actually stopped raining for a bit.
Heading out of Sarria we ran into some more hills. The intermittent freezing rain made temperature control very difficult. My hands were still freezing cold in my soaking wet, wind-permeable “waterproof” Sealskinz gloves (anti-plug there!), although my toe warmers were keeping the wind off and the accumulated water in my shoes had finally started to warm up from the empanada-fuelled blood flow. Anna was wearing gore-tex shoes and kept complaining she was too hot. Poor Anna. But at last, a ray of hope. The rain stopped and the sun started to make cheeky little appearances from behind the clouds. It is absolutely amazing what a difference it makes to your day when the sun comes out in these conditions. Suddenly we thought we might survive the day.
We were getting tired and were hoping to find a hostel in the village of Paradela, but alas, when I asked some guys outside a bar (all in Spanish, very proud of myself), they said there was nothing till the next town, Portomarin. They reassured us it was all downhill and we would be there in 20 minutes, but after our last experience, Anna was sceptical. For the first kilometre out of town it looked like she was right, and she wasn’t shy about saying so, but after that we hit a glorious steep winding downhill section that would make for awesome race footage. We went whizzing down in the sunshine, all thoughts of coldness (and photos sadly) forgotten, and popped out by the huge many-armed lake where Portomarin nestles. We made our way round the lake and came to the bridge that leads into town. From an adjoining road came a few tens of pilgrims making it into town as well after an exhausting day’s walk. Their path was separate to ours for most of the day and I realised that I’d quite missed them!
We crossed the bridge and started up the hill to town. There was an awesome mural on the wall of the public baths, and a great view of the lake. After taking a couple of photos, where I became genuinely angry with a motorist for daring to enter the frame at the wrong moment I went to set off on my bike and unceremoniously fell over into the road, where I lay cackling like an idiot. Realised I was a bit tired at this point.
We went round town looking for a hostel for less that €10 so we could stick to our budget for the day. That went out the window though when Anna found we could have a sweet private room and access to washing and drying facilities and bike storage in the Portosantiago hostel for €30. After conducting the usual shower (oh my god, how good!), clothes wash and shopping we had a quick (late) siesta before prepping tasty stew and enjoying with a bottle of Rioja from “Spain’s best vineyard 2011” we picked up at the supermarket for €2.70. All is right with the world again! Bring on tomorrow! Buenos noches!